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Suzanne Tank

New geographer working with world’s best

October 8, 2009

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The world’s northern waterways are Suzanne Tank’s classrooms. The geography PhD student, who graduates this fall, spent three years in the Arctic studying the lakes (more than 45,000) of the Mackenzie Delta, examining the role of microbes in regulating the function of the northern ecosystem.

Tank’s research has earned her a post-doctoral position at the Ecosystems Center, which is part of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. The centre is considered the world’s top research institute for integrated ecosystems research.

Tank is part of a collaborative study, working with researchers from Russia, Canada and several institutions in the U.S. "It’s a long-term study that investigates the composition of the major rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean to try to get an idea of what is entering the ocean from the land masses that surround it," Tank explains.

The researchers are focusing on half a dozen northern rivers and taking measurements of dissolved nutrients, ions and organic carbon from river water just before the point where the rivers enter the ocean.

"Compared to other oceans, the Arctic is extremely land-locked, and as such has a proportionately large amount of fresh water flowing into it, so it’s a place where the surrounding land masses really can have an effect on how the ocean functions," says Tank.

The project will provide important baseline information for understanding the Arctic in the future and key insights into the role of its rivers.

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